New data show 2015 emissions dip / Protests against transmission line
Falling emissions from the energy sector mean Germany’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell slightly in 2015, compared to 2014, according to revised data published by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). 901.9 million tonnes CO₂ equivalents were emitted in 2015, 0.3 percent less than in 2014, and 27.9 percent less than in 1990. Preliminary data released by the UBA last year had shown a slight increase. “The Energiewende is beginning to have an effect,” said UBA president Maria Krautzberger now. “More and more power comes from sun, wind or water and not from coal or oil. That is reflected in falling emissions.” She called for a step-by-step coal exit. Emissions in the agriculture and transport sectors rose slightly. Only with the help of e-mobility could Germany hope to lower transport emissions, Krautzberger said.
In a separate press release, Greenpeace energy expert Niklas Schinerl said, “The German climate target is little more than words. The delayed coal exit by the federal government and the car industry’s reticence are to blame.”
First estimates for 2016 by AG Energiebilanzen (AGEB) recently showed a 0.9 percent rise in energy-related CO₂ emissions.
For background and 2016 estimates read the CLEW article German carbon emissions rise in 2016 despite coal use drop and the CLEW factsheet Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets.
dpa / BUND / BBgS
Environmentalists and critics of current Energiewende policies are intensifying protests against major high-voltage transmission lines traversing Germany from north to south, news agency dpa reports. Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) and anti-transmission line citizens’ group BBgS issued a joint statement saying they opposed the planned transmission lines dubbed “Suedlink” and “Suedostlink” meant to transfer electricity from wind-rich northern and eastern Germany to industrial centres in the south of the country. The activists said they opposed “point-to-point connections” like Suedlink as they lacked branch connections needed for a future “decentralised energy production and consumption structure”.
For background, see the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany’s power grid.
Germany’s public utilities will be at the forefront of implementing the decentralised energy supply required by the Energiewende, Katherina Reiche, director of the German Association of Local Utilities (VKU), said in an interview with Welt kompakt. Reiche said 97 percent of the energy provided by renewables was fed into distribution grids, which are largely operated by public utilities. The four major transmission grid operators argue for a centralised solution “that can’t be right,” Reiche told the newspaper. She said the transmission grid operators’ actions prompted some observers “to speak of an oligopoly forming in the energy market,” adding that public utilities were most suitable for implementing combined heat and power solutions and therefore “need the same access rights to data” as transmission grid operators “to serve their purpose on the ground.”
Read the article in German here.
For background, see the CLEW factsheet Combined heat and power - an Energiewende cornerstone? and the CLEW factsheet Small, but powerful – Germany’s municipal utilities.
Diesel cars, and older models in particular, are responsible for high levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution in German city centres, according to Federal Environment Agency (UBA). 57 percent of measuring stations close to traffic showed pollution exceeding limits, according to the UBA’s 2016 air quality report. There has been only a slight drop in pollution since 2010, the UBA says in a press release. “Regarding health protection, it is not acceptable that communities have no way of banning diesel cars with high emissions, for example, from polluted inner cities,” UBA president Maria Krautzberger said. 2016 also saw ozone levels exceeding limits at a fifth of all measuring stations. This was in part caused by ozone precursors like nitrogen oxides.
Find the press release and additional material in German here.
For background read the CLEW dossiers The energy transition and Germany’s transport sector and The energy transition and climate change.
Destatis / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The inflation rate in Germany in January 2017, as measured by the consumer price index, is expected to be 1.9 percent on January 2016, according to Germany’s statistics agency Destatis. This was largely due to higher energy prices, according to an article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Household energy and motor fuels were 5.8 percent more expensive than a year ago. Destatis says consumer prices are expected to decline by 0.6 percent on December 2016.
There are no significant adverse effects to human health stemming from wind turbines, according to a study by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Scientists analysed the health risks wind turbines might pose due to noise emissions (including subsonic noise), ice throw, light emissions and shadows, as well as disturbances based on subjective perception of turbines. If turbines are operated correctly, “the health risk potential is very marginal,” the study said. Technological progress had considerably reduced detrimental impacts of turbines, making them less dangerous for human health than CO2-emitting coal plants, the UBA said. However, it added there often were “fears and reservations among residents concerning potential health risks, in spite of clear scientific indications” that would be best countered by closely involving the public in the planning and construction of wind turbines near their homes from the start.
Find the study in German here.
For more information, read the CLEW dossier The People’s Energiewende.
The German Green Party has criticised the Social Democrat candidate for chancellor, Martin Schulz, for not having taken a clear stance on climate protection yet, news agency dpa reports. The Green’s parliamentary group chairman Anton Hofreiter told dpa that in the current grand coalition government with Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, Schulz’s SPD party had slowed down the Energiewende and ignored climate protection. “I haven’t seen Schulz setting a course on this matter yet,” Hofreiter told the news wire. However, he said he regarded pro-European Schulz as an “interesting candidate” whose nomination by the SPD could “only benefit” the election battle if it motivated people to take an interest in politics.
Read an article on the topic in German here.
For more information, see the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Forest clearance and other changes to the landscape are responsible for more CO2-emissions than previously thought, researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have found. “Forests, grasslands and fields contribute considerably to climate protection” by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, KIT said in a press release. Comparing the absorbance patterns of natural and transformed landscape now suggested that vegetation’s capacity to store CO2 was even “greater than expected. [...] In any case, our results support efforts to prevent further large-scale forest clearance in order to protect the climate,” KIT added.
For more information, see the CLEW dossier The energy transition and climate change.
Driving cars might be very dear to large parts of the German population, but it is not a fundamental right and can be harmful to health and environment, writes Svenja Bergt in an opinion piece in tageszeitung (taz). Instead of half-hearted diesel bans, she proposes private car bans for inner cities. “Delivery transport, street cleaners and ambulances fill up on green power. Bicycle rentals on every other street corner. Public transport every three minutes. Parks instead of parking. Then residents in towns in valley basins could breathe freely even at times of thermal inversions,” Bergt writes.
Read the opinion piece in German here.